Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

#121--Selling David Mears's Homestead

I thought a lot about how to approach this week’s blog on “The Old Homestead.”  I have written about Jonathan Fairbanks’s house in Dedham so I needed another place.  I recently was able to acquire some land records from Adams and Brown County Ohio.  The land was owned by my great time 4   grandfather, David Mears.  David Mears was born about 1765, possibly in Ireland.  He first appears in the records of Mason County Kentucky in 1792 where he lived until at least 1799.  He next appears in the records of Adams County, Ohio where in 1811 he bought 200 acres of land on Eagle Creek from James Scott.  The land is described as falling in the Military District Warrant #2268 and bounded by Thomas Groves’s survey #1041.  The land is further described in terms of existing landmarks, e.g. a number of poles south to a particular tree, then a number of degrees west to a certain stone, etc.  Over two hundred years later that is not much help in terms of an exact location except that the land is on Eagle Creek, which is now in Brown County, not Adams. 

David paid taxes on 200 acres of land until 1823 when he sold 50 acres to John Rice for $202.  He continued to pay taxes on that amount of land until his death in 1828. 

I was interested in figuring out what happened to David Mears’s homestead.  He and Elizabeth had 9 children, 7 of whom continued to live in Brown County.  The other two (Elizabeth Mears, who married Jonathan Shreve, and William Mears and his wife, Sarah) had moved to Indiana.  I started by reading the sale of the homestead by the Mears heirs—those that lived Brown County.  The 150 acres were sold to Jeptha Beasley for $1200 on February 13, 1830.  What I found puzzling was that John and Charity Mears Hannah received 5/8 of the proceeds ($750) while Jane Mears Stephenson, Mary Mears and her husband Samuel Sayres, and Elizabeth Mears, David wife’s each received 1/8, which would be $150.  I wondered why John and Charity would get such a large share, while others received none or 1/8. 

A little more detective work gave me the answer.  Each son or daughter that lived in Brown County along with his or her spouse inherited 1/8 of the land.  Then in various dates in 1829 John and Charity Mears Hannah bought the rights to the 1/8 shares from four of her siblings:  Catherine Mears and her husband Israel Sayres; Nancy Mears and her husband, George Newell; Samuel Mears and his wife, Sarah; and Sarah Jane Mears and her husband, George Fisher.  To each couple John and Charity Mears Hannah paid $100. 

I would be interesting in knowing why that happened.  If my math is correct, 1/8 of $1200 is $150, so selling the rights for $100 when you could have gotten $150 is a significant loss.  Maybe they did not believe the land could sell for as much as it did so $100 seemed like a good deal.  Maybe they needed the money then.  If I could talk to them, I would surely ask. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

#120 Charles Cochrane--A Final Misfortune

Misfortune is the theme for this week.  As soon as I saw that, I knew immediately which one of my ancestors was most unfortunate.  That would be Charles Cochrane, my great time 4 uncle.  Charles was born on January 12, 1749 to Thomas Cochrane, the 8th Earl of Dundonald and Jean Stewart.  In 1770, he married Catherine Pitcairn, the daughter of Major John Pitcairn.

Coming from a family with a strong military and naval tradition, Charles joined the army at the age of 13.  Charles served as an Ensign in the 25th Regiment for six years, and a Lieutenant in the 7th Regiment for another 6 years. As a Captain in the 4th Regiment of Foot, known as the King’s Own, Charles came to Boston in 1774.   On April 19, 1775 Charles was on patrol in the countryside around Boston, but did not participate in the Battle of Bunker Hills.  However, his father-in-law was killed in that battle.

Charles continued to serve in the colonies until June of 1780, when he requested leave to return to England to see his wife and two children.  He then returned with them to New York.  In October, 1781, Charles was sent by Sir Henry Clinton to Yorktown, Virginia with orders for General Cornwallis.  The French Fleet had blocked the Virginia Cape, requiring Cochrane to sail ashore in a small boat while the French fleet fired at him.  Cornwallis was so impressed with Cochrane that he appointed him his aide de camp.

So far Charles Cochrane’s military career seems pretty good, but not for long.  His unfortunately event then occurred.  It is well described in The Fighting Cochranes by Alexander Cochrane, on page 162

 “…he did not long outlive his exploit or his appointment.  Ever the keen and enthusiastic soldier, a day or two after his arrival in Yorktown he went on to the besieged walls with the Earl of Cornwallis.  There he sighted a gun; fired it; then peered over the parapet to see the effect of his shot.  As he did so, against all the odds, he was killed instantly by an enemy cannon-ball.”

That was indeed a misfortunate for Charles Cochrane, who lost his life, but also for his wife, who lost both her husband and her father in the war.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

#119--Lucky Mary

The theme for this week is “Lucky.”  My first thought was “Did I have anyone whose nickname was Lucky.”  .But I did not.  My second thought was to find an ancestor who was in some way lucky.  I really did not find anyone who fit that category.  Then I thought about the ways I have been lucky in genealogy.  I immediately thought of one of the things that happened as I prepared for my trip to Salt Lake City at the Family History Library with the New England Historic and Genealogical Society.  Before I went, I spent a lot of time with their catalog figuring out what I wanted to look at.  There were more things that I wanted to see than I had time to do.  One of the items I wanted was the microfilm for the will boxes for Norfolk County, Massachusetts.  My Richards ancestors lived in Dedham, Norfolk County since 1634 and I was interested to see exactly what was in those boxes.  While most of the microfilms are in the library, sometimes you have to order them.  I had to do that for the will box microfilms as they were stored in at the Granite Mountain Vault.    So I filled out the form to have them available when I was there.  Several days later, I received an e-mail saying that they were now online.

I was delighted with my luck.  I had more time to devote to things that were only available to the library and could spent as much time as I wanted online at home looking at the will boxes.  So was I lucky in terms of what I could find in those will boxes?  I think so, perhaps luckier with some people than others.  Let me use Abiathar Richards, Jr., my great times 3 grandfather.  There are 38 items in his will box.  About half of them are pages with only his name and file number on them. However, others are a wealth of information.  First in the box is his will—that makes sense.  It was pretty straight forward.  He left $1 to all his children with the exception of his unmarried daughter, Catherine, who was to receive $100.  His wife, Elizabeth, was to have the use of his property and any income from it until his death or until she remarried.   His sons, Luther and Abiathar, were to split his clothing.  What surprised me was that his wife, Elizabeth, was appointed as the Executrix of his estate.  I do know think of women at that time playing that role.

I was most interested in the inventory of his estate as that gives me an idea of what the person did and was like.  Abiathar Richards was a farmer and his property reflects that.  The value of his real estate—2 ½ acres of woodland was $40 and his personal property was worth $299. There was really nothing too surprising in his property—he owned some livestock (hog and a cow) farm implements, and crops in terms of cider and winter apples, potatoes, rye, etc. I was more interested in the fact that he had two sets of fine china, 12 sets of sheets and pillowcases, blankets, and quilts  and of course, bedsteads, tables and chairs.  Too me that was a pretty well appointed house.  The expenses for the estate were pretty routine—payment of the legacies to his children, medical expenses ($6.00), taxes ($7.15), and funeral expenses ($14.50) and grave stone ($11.50).  However, the very best part of the expense report was at the bottom was Elizabeth Richards signature!

I was lucky finding that the will boxes are on line and the information in them.  I am always more interested in the lives of my ancestors than when they were born, married and died.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

#118--Charity Mears, One Strong Woman

Strong women is this week’s theme.  I have blogged before about two women that I considered to be strong (Sarah Hannah Michell and Albertine Hannah.)  So now I had to find another one.  Information about women is hard to find—most information that is written is about men.  I looked for a likely candidate and finally settled on my 4th great grandmother, Charity Mears Hannah and to a great extent she is a pretty typical woman for that time.

Charity was born on February 11, 1806 in Ohio to David and Elizabeth Mears.  She was one of eight children.  At the age of 16 in 1822 she was married to John M. Hannah by the Reverend John Rankin, a noted abolitionist. She and John lived in Brown County, Ohio, where John farmed and she ran the household.  There their first five children were born. In 1830 John and Charity along with one of her sisters, Catherine Mears Sayres and her husband, Israel, and her mother Elizabeth Mears moved from Brown County, Ohio to Edgar County Illinois.  I suspect they moved for the same reason that other pioneers went west—better land for farming and greater opportunities to be successful.  While in Illinois, Charity and John had six more children.  On April 1, 1842, when she was 36 Charity died and was buried in the McKee Cemetery Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois, USA.

Charity was a pretty typical woman for her time.  But I think Charity Mears Hannah like all pioneer women was a strong woman.  And I think that for a couple of reasons. First, I think about the challenges of getting from Brown County, Illinois on the Ohio River to Edgar County, Illinois, which is near the Wabash River.  I have no idea how these families got from one place to the other, but I do
have two ideas.  One is that they put all their belongings on a flat boat, went down the Ohio River and then up the Wabash.  The second is that they went over land in a wagon.  To do that, they would have probably gone up to central Ohio, across the National Road, and they up to Edgar County.  If that was not difficult enough, when they arrive, they had no home, that house had to be built and built quickly.   Hopefully it was a warm and snug cabin.  In either event, taking care of your husband and five small children on such a trip would require great strength and determination.  Compare that to today, when we load all our possessions in a truck, the family in a car, and arrive at our new home.

Second, Charity ran a very large household.  That would involve keeping and cleaning the house, taking care of the children, planting and harvesting the kitchen garden, tending the chickens, making clothes, churning butter, cooking all the meals and tending the fire.  All that with probably no help except from her older girls. Remember, there were none of the modern convenience we enjoy—no central heating, refrigerator, electric or gas stove, washing and dryer, etc.  Life was hard and women like Charity needed to be strong.  I know when I lose my electricity for a day or so, I am not happy.  The food in the freezer and refrigerator goes bad, I cannot cook or even make a hot cup of coffee, and the house is either hot or cold.  Compared to women like Charity, we have very easy lives.

I would love to talk to Charity about her life.  I would like to know how they got from Ohio to Illinois, how she  raised eleven children, what her typical day was like, if she had any time to relax, and if so, what she did, and what dangers did she encounter.

Monday, March 5, 2018

#118--James Hannah--Where Did You Die?

Wills, if you can find them, are amazing documents.  Not only do they have information about relatives of the deceased, they also can contain information about what was owned, who the property was going to be left to, etc.  For years I tried to find the location of the death of and the records that would go with it for my 4th great grandfather, James Hannah. James died in 1828. I have a copy of a letter describing how the writer and his father went to get James Hannah’s wife, Nancy McKee Hannah, in Cincinnati after he died there.  They brought her back to Brown County, Ohio and there she lived until she moved to Edgar County, Illinois along with the rest of the family.

So given that information, I did what seemed sensible—I looked in Hamilton County, Ohio, the location of Cincinnati.  I looked at death records, church records, cemetery records, etc.  I had no success.  Then as luck would have it, I happened to be looking at a book, entitled Brown County Court Records, 1818-1850 by Patricia Donaldson.  I checked to see what records they might have on my Hannahs and to my surprise there was James Hannah and information about his will. The date of his death fit and the administrator, Joseph Mckee, made sense as Joseph was his son-in-law.    I was delighted and even more delighted when I was able to order his probate records from the Court in Brown County.  From reading them, I knew that I had finally found James Hannah probate information.

I learned a couple of lessons from this.  One is that no matter how convincing a memory of event is, the event may not be true.  In this case, I suspect the writer was thinking of another grandparent.  Second, when you cannot find a record, look in nearby counties.  Had I done that, I would have found those estate documents much sooner.